Planning committee approves SoHo Italia condo

The controversial SoHo Italia condo building is now one step closer to defining the Little Italy skyline after the planning committee approved the 30-storey tower today.

The committee also approved the construction of balconies on the upper levels hovering over the Preston Street side.

City planner Douglas Bridgewater said the Preston development will fulfill many of the traditional mainstreet objectives, such as animating the streetscape and improving the pedestrian experience.

But the application also had detractors and underwhelmed supporters.

“I’m certainly not in favour of this one, you won’t be surprised to hear,” said Somerset Coun. Diane Holmes, who does not sit on the committee. The raising of this building will create a precedent, she said, and Preston will see many other high-rises. She said these developments will block sunlight and see the removal of patio space down Preston – a major tourist street – and ultimately hurt business for members of the local BIA.

Cumberland Coun. Stephen Blais said he would rather see a 50 or 60-storey building with an interesting design as opposed to this development, which he described as just looking like a rectangle.

Barrhaven Coun. Jan Harder said she wouldn’t vote against the application, but said she is underwhelmed by the tower’s appearance – the result of the city tinkering with the design. An earlier version had a wavy appearance that she said looked better.

Kitchissippi Coun. Katherine Hobbs disagreed with comments made by the other councillors. She said the complex does not have a boring design but rather, “It is what we’re fighting for in every part of the downtown.”

Both pleased and less-than-ecstatic councillors ultimately signed off on the project with only Blais dissenting from giving it the greenlight.

Architect Rod Lahey, the self-described “modernist at heart,” said, in an interview, that he is happy with the building’s final design. Ten years ago, he said, a development this size could not be raised on Preston.